Beaconsfield miners free at last
Tasmanian miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb have walked out of the Beaconsfield mine.
Crowds cheered and sirens wailed as the smiling men emerged from their 14-day ordeal.
They clocked out, then walked straight into the arms of their families.
The pair walked out at 5.59am (AEST).
In fluoro jackets and with miners hardhats, headlights shining, the freed men smiled and walked freely among the crowd gathered inside the mine site compound, including family and rescuers.
They shook hands, waved to people and gave thanks.
Todd Russell's brother-in-law Allan Bennett was at the top of the mine to greet his relative and friend.
"It's what dreams are made of, mate," he later said.
"I said 'a miracle' to start with, that's all I could think of, and 'it's what dreams are made of'.
Mr Bennett said he would attend the funeral in Launceston today of Larry Knight, 44, who died in the mine rockfall.
"Don't forget Larry and the other 14 men (who escaped the April 25 rockfall).
"They're all one, that's how it works," a crying Mr Bennett said.
Mr Russell and Mr Webb entered separate ambulances at 6.05am (AEST), still smiling and waving.
Before they left, the men gave the thumbs up to wellwishers.
Their children jumped into the vehicles to hug their fathers.
As the ambulances left the site, followed by minivans carrying their families, the convoy was cheered by crowds of people who formed an honour guard.
"The elation is unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable," a teary onlooker, Diane Alexander, said.
"The whole spirit of this community is tremendous."
Local Vivienne King, a Salvation Army volunteer, said the freed miners looked "really, really" good, considering their long confinement.
"It's amazing. It's just a miracle, an absolute miracle.
"It's hard to believe two weeks have passed.
The freed miners are not expected to stay long at the Launceston Hospital before they can go home, the hospital says.
"They will come in and they will be assessed in the emergency department," Launceston Hospital chief executive Stephen Ayre told the Seven network.
"They are in very good physical shape (and) we believe they will only be here a minimal amount of time."
Mr Russell and Mr Todd arrived at Launceston General Hospital smiling, again waving and giving the thumbs up to the welcoming crowd.
The pair was wheeled into the emergency department strapped to stretchers.
Australian Workers Union national secretary Bill Shorten is delighted.
"This is an amazing day, the rescuers have done a fantastic job. The families have been fantastic. And clearly these two men have been outstanding Australians. It's a great day," Mr Shorten said.
A bell at Beaconsfield's Uniting Church pealed in celebration just after 5am (AEST).
It was the first time the bell had been rung since the end of World War II, 61 years ago.
Mr Russell and Mr Webb had been trapped almost one kilometre underground at Tasmania's Beaconsfield Gold Mine since a rockfall triggered by an earth tremor on April 25.
They were found alive on April 30 and rescuers had been slowly and painstakingly tunnelling towards them ever since.
Tasmania's Deputy Premier Bryan Green said the men had been assessed at a category three health level.
Category four is normal health.
"With respect to their physical health, I don't think too long at all (before they are back to normal) but I think they'll have to work through a number of emotions as a result of their rescue," he said.
West Tamar Mayor Barry Easther said it was a time of mixed emotion for the community because of Larry Knight's funeral later today.
"It's a sad but exciting time to have these two lads brought back to surface, dream come true.
"It's an amazing thing that they're in such good health.
"How they've held it together all this time I don't know.
"Rescue workers working in such confined spaces were a magnificent group of people.
"It brought home just how close-knit the mining community are," Mr Easther said.
Mr Shorten said he was pleased the men were freed ahead of the funeral of Mr Knight.
The Knight family had delayed the funeral in the hope the men would be freed first, but as rescue efforts dragged on, they were forced to schedule it for today.
"At least one thing has gone right in the funeral process - it's that all the workers of Beaconsfield would be able to be at the funeral, and it's that Todd and Brant will be above the surface. And who knows what they might do," Mr Shorten said.
When asked if the pair would attend the funeral, Mr Shorten said: "I don't know but these are special people."
Mr Shorten said the rescuers should be given medals.
"These rescuers have just kept working," he said.
"This is a day for the rescuers. While the rockfall was a disaster, the rescue has been a success."
|zlotty_co_380||I just want to say to them we are, all of us, 20 million of us, delighted to still have them with us|
zlotty can you just imagine the overtime and penalty rates
but seriously it's great that they are back alive and well
sto mislis ke mu platat za prekuvremeno ili ??? oti znam deka koga izlegle odma otisle da gi swipovaat kartite deka zavrsile smena
Tuku zamisli im platat za sekoj extra hours treba 100% more the normal rate + 20 % loadings + public holiday.... omg pa tie ke bidat milioneri : )
|Legal-Eagle|| $3M each just to sell their story to a TV network!
If i was buried alive for 12 days plus i would be looking for a hell of a lot more than a pissy $3M.
I wouldnt be surprised if these guys end up writing a book and doing a movie just like Stuart Diver.
Good On Them, they truly displayed what the Australian spirit is all about.
Legal there was talk of a book and movie the day after they surfaced
do you want me to show you real picture from the Australain Spirit
more majkata , sledniot den za na toa crazy jhon sto bea na gosti vo emisijata kiznaj kolku milioni mu dale....tuku kaj se bajnale 14 dena? jas si mislev deka koga ke izlezat nemozat da odat, oni koga izlegoa kako nisto da ne im bilo 14 dena, najadeni, napijani, naspijani, i koga izlegoa duri popraveni bea, kako da stavile nekoje kilo plus, a ne da oslabele : )
|SydneyGuy||Together as one we can achieve much more than we can individually. Helping others in time of need. This is what humanity is really all about.|